Although things changed in my late teens, before high school, the prudish little person I was created a sharp moral divide between bookishness and athleticism, firmly believing no serious person could maintain both characteristics in any sort of balance (or, really, take up sides at all with the athletic camp). Unsurprisingly, I was spotted at every one of my sister’s games, from softball to volleyball to basketball, book in hand and completely oblivious to what was going on around me. Today, I’ll readily admit I was an idiot– but still have a book or three in tow wherever I go, just to be prepared.
And so I did have Brian Dillon’s Essayism in the front pouch of my purse when I walked into a major-league baseball game the other night. It stayed there the whole evening, until I got back on the train home; I was with a friend, and even had I been alone, I wouldn’t dare have whipped out a book in the midst of a cross-town rivalry. But it did get me thinking about all the good sports (or other genres of) action I missed in my early years, thanks to having snubbed everything that didn’t count as literature– and no wonder I was well aware of being a weird kid. And had I had my nose lodged in my trade paperback on this occasion, I would’ve missed out on a couple of determined rounds of fisticuffs in our section, the horde of security it took to break them up, and the scattered displays of inebriated chest-bumping that made my friend and I believe that the pruning dudes lovingly beating the crap out of each other were just going to have to make out at some point in the future. That is, had I continued ignoring the present world for the crafted word, I probably never would have escaped a very beautiful and very interesting, but very unreal, existence.
All that is not a celebration of stereotypical boys being boys; I can probably handle one live reminder per year of that brand of inanity. And I’m not going to give up quality writing for continual observation of sports-based rituals– but just being part of a merrily tense crowd did remind me that I have to look up every now and then, that there are actual living, interesting things and people beyond the page. A complete chestnut, that– but sometimes, you need to be slapped upside the head by the obvious.